Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mob Violence replacing Police in Kenya?

I read this article in the EA Standard and it seems that security in Kenya still has a long way to go.Things have improved slightly but it seems that bank robberies are back on the upswing if press reports of the last few months are anything to go by.Some people say that it is connected to the upcoming elections, with the thugs being connected to politicians who want to finance their re-election kitty.
A survey once said that 37% of Nairobi inhabitants had admitted to being mugged in the last one year.Crime can be attributed to many things but what the people expect is for the police to prevent the country from sliding into lawlessness. Unfortunately due to different factors like lack of funding, antiquated equipment, poor morale, too few policemen and corruption; mob justice has become the order of the day.
I am sure most of us can remember South Africa's number one import before Nando and Steer's, the necklace. This was when a suspected criminal would after a sound beating have a tire put around his neck and set on fire. I think that was the ultimate expression of the people's frustration. The most amazing thing is that when mob justice goes down is that you would think that it would be riff raff that would participate but I have seen well dressed men and women take part in it.
Often incidents have been reported of a mob catching a group of thieves and beating them to death in front of patrolling police men who knew that if they intervened the blood thirsty mob would pounce on them and accuse them of abetting the criminals activities. I once recall hearing the phrase, "the thugs were apprehended by peace loving wanainchi," if you ever get to see one of those mobs; peace loving is not the word you would use to describe them
As for the Police, yes there are corrupt police men; but there are also those who have been frustrated when they arrest criminals only to see them on the street like a week later due to revolving door justice. So some policemen have taken to executing criminals on the spot so as to save tax payers money.
Sometimes the stories can make Nairobi seem like a warzone when that is not the case depending on where you live. Of course security is better in the uptown suburbs where people hire private security firms, you can choose from around 10,000 in Kenya. But as lonely planet put it, "how do people expect watchmen armed with wooden sticks to combat thugs with automatic weapons?"
So living in a suburb or gated community can only shield you for so long. It is obvious that we need a larger police force with modern equipment, a functioning judicial process with less corruption and a stronger economy so less people will choose crime as a way of life.
But before that happens foreign investors will shun Kenya, our tourist industry will underperform, our women will have to live in fear of rape everyday, business owners will fear being cleaned out, car owners wont be sure how long there cars will belong to them and pedestrians will skit around the city hoping their necks aren't broken by ngeta.
Regular programming will resume soon.......

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is very easy to heap blame on "peace-loving wananchi" for meting out due punishment to muggers and other thugs if you've not been a victim of ngeta or if you don't have to live in the fear of losing your life and/or hard earned property. The problem is far more deep rooted than can just be wished away, though establishing a functional legal system is a good place to start from. That coupled with a police force that is well motivated, well equipped and has been granted a shoot-to-kill order will greatly reduce these vermin who rob, maim and kill us. Afterall, desperate situations call for desparate measures. Once crime reduces to manageable levels, then we can go easy on the tough measures, and allow the due process of law take its course. Alternatively, afew authorised well constituted vigilante groups (not mungiki!!) can be allowed to operate if the police force is overwhelmed. If we cannot do any of these things, then more power to mob justice; it's been known to be a deterrent to crime!!!

Aegeus said...

Mob violence is a sure sign that the people have lost confidence in the police force.

I have been a victim of a couple of muggings(4 years ago) and have been carjacked and robbed of my moto gari(also about 3 years ago) and have escaped several attempted carjackings(over the past years). There has been an attempted break in at my house (a year ago). There have been numerous break ins in my current workplace, barbed wire and electic fencing and alarms notwithstanding!

Now, this says a whole lot about it being insecure at least in Nairobi.It seems to have become a sort of a rite of passage. About 80% of the people i know have been victims of a violent crime.

High unemployment rates have contributed to this sad state of affairs, fuelled by low police morale and as the article mentioned corruption in the police force and other govt. institutions. This is one long comment and I could go on forever. (Will try and do a post on it soon).

So when the opportunity to vent ones' anger by delivering a swift kick or jab to the suspected thief, wananchi find it difficult to hold back. It is very frustrating and stressful to be held powerless while you see the perpetrators you hand over to the police walking the streets shortly after.

Devious One said...

I get the silver medal...now off to read

Acolyte said...

@ Anonymous
I am not putting blame on wanainchi, it is the opposite. I am putting the blame on the police and the judicial system that has become so useless that the people have taken it upon themselves to do the job the police can't.
Vigilante groups are always a loose cannon, they are better than nothing but can get a bit out of hand.
Mob justice can seem effective but not when the wrong person is beat to death.
@ Aegus
I am sorry to hear all you have been through.I have had some run ins but luckily none of them have been violent and other than a car following me once, no car jacking attempts.
But the fact that thugs can be so daring means that we have problems big problems, some of which you have highlighted in your comment.
The thing is what is our government doing to solve them?
But I do agree that mob justice is indeed an expression of the people's frustration.

Acolyte said...

@ Devious one
You get the bronze!Not the silver!

Gathara said...

Why not allow armed guards? It seems rather obvious that our security cannot long endure if we continue to operate at the mercy of gun wielding thugs and an incompetent, and down-right criminal, police force while our protection consists of watchies with sticks.
In fact, why not allow all to get guns (with a strict background check, of course)? Then we can meet my Kyuk cousins at a more-or-less equal level.

Acolyte said...

@ gathara
Armed guards would be a spectacular idea as long as those guns do not fall in the wrong hands.
The police are armed and also take part in crime.
But as you said it, it would be a great equaliser against your "cousins".

gishungwa said...

It is a sad state of affairs i must admit as last week on thursday, this guy stabbed a guy as he tried to cyclejack(jack a motorbike) then the crowd was on him they beat him up, then along came a tyre and fuel, shortly the stench of burning human. the police came close but had to walk away since the risk is too high they went round the block and came in time to drag him to Kenyatta national Hosp with severe burns since all his clothes were burnt. we could all see that just by looking out of our office window at midday.I beg to differ onissue that they are better i mean the police since sometimes they are worse than the thugs fondly called Kamaus since they have the backing of the law sorta! remember the kalamashaka song "nikimblie nani jambazi apana, polisi apana watanifunga bila hatia" really the insecurity...
Talk of a manned gate now my watchman carries a rungu and the thugs have AK47, who is to blame when he runs away for his life and leaves me and the thugs to sort ourselves out? nobody. What do we need proper trained policemen, not "my mbois saw the suspect, then chased him there was an exchange of fire and we shot two and one got away, we have officers after him as he fondles the 4 guns and 13 rounds of ammunition that his mbois recovered."
Community policing will not work unless the citizens can trust the police but then again who are we kidding. I remember the Spider squad, tough women squad, the gods couldnt save you from their wrath maybe that is the way next. bunch of squads and the helicopter that flew at night lighting up the city felt like they could see you when that beam of light landed on you.

Sorry Aco for the long comment.

Acolyte said...

@ Gish
Thanks for your comment after all you are a Kenyan and have seen these things first hand.
what bothers me is the static nature of the government's response.So little is being done about the whole issue.